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The recently announced merger between Bingham McCutchen and Riordan & McKinzie may not be a merger of equals, but it appears to serve an equally critical function for each firm. For Bingham McCutchen, the combination fills what was a significant hole in its vision of becoming a true coast-to-coast legal player. And for Riordan, a 60-attorney Los Angeles-based corporate outfit, the merger provides a new lease on life. When the merger is officially completed July 1, Bingham McCutchen will boast 850 lawyers in 11 offices. More importantly, its Los Angeles office will double in size, totaling 120 lawyers, and the firm will acquire a long-needed transactional practice in the region. “It provides a terrific corporate capability for us which will enhance our practice, not just in Southern California, but throughout the state,” said Bingham McCutchen Vice Chair Donn Pickett, listing the benefits of the merger. Sandford Lechtick, a legal recruiter who worked on a pair of previous merger discussions with Riordan (including one with Chicago’s Winston & Strawn), called the combination with Bingham “a terrific fit.” “The Riordan firm was one of the few plums that was left in Southern California,” he said. But it’s clear that Riordan’s days as an independent, regional firm were numbered. “They concluded that it was kind of a losing fight to stay as a small- to mid-sized firm,” he said. Over the past couple of years, Riordan’s ranks have thinned as a number of its prominent partners moved to rival firms. In 2001, Kenneth Klein, the chair of Riordan’s litigation department, moved to Hogan & Hartson. And in February, William Emer, Riordan’s labor and employment group chair, defected to Perkins Coie. Over all, Riordan’s headcount has decreased by 25 percent since March 2000, when it counted 84 attorneys. The firm now grosses approximately $33 million a year, Pickett said. And Richard Welch, the chairman of Riordan, said profits per partner were on track to hit $650,000 this year. While the Riordan firm still has tax, real estate and labor law capabilities, its prime focus is now clearly on corporate law, primarily merger and acquisitions, private equity and venture capital work. Of course, the past couple of years have hardly been boom times for corporate work. “When business is great, there’s plenty of work to go around. But when there isn’t a lot of that work going around, the bigger firms tend to get the calls first,” says one former Riordan partner. Welch acknowledged that corporate work is not as big as it was a few years ago, but said that many of the firm’s private equity clients, particularly Platinum Equity and Gores Technology Group, have remained active. “Our client base in the corporate area is so entrepreneurial that we’ve had clients that have taken advantage of this climate,” said Welch, who will become managing partner of Bingham’s Los Angeles office and firmwide co-chair of its private equities group. Welch noted that one of the advantages of merging with Bingham McCutchen was diversification of its practice. “We looked at staying independent and setting a goal of being leading private equity firm on the West Coast, and it seemed difficult for us to acquire the quality lateral talent” that was necessary, Welch said. In the works since February, the deal was approved by the partners at each firm last week. Riordan’s roughly 25 partners will all join Bingham as partners, though a handful will not have full-equity voting rights, Pickett said. Bingham will take on more space at its Los Angeles office in order to accommodate the incoming Riordan attorneys. Riordan’s lawyers will begin moving into Bingham’s office in July, said Pickett.

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